We may be criminals but we’re Jewish

The Israeli coalition government that is due to be sworn in over the next few days is a criminal enterprise.

Its creation was the result of a criminal conspiracy to defraud the public by allocating vast sums of public funds to the coalition’s member parties for distribution to pet projects, as they see fit. Those projects benefit only two of the country’s many population groups – ultra-Orthodox Jews and the settlers.

Such allocations contradict an opinion by the Justice Ministry last February that party-specific funding is both unethical and illegal, because it creates a relationship of dependency between the distributing party and the recipient, leading invariably to corruption.

Such was the case with the Yisrael Beiteinu Party of former foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman, which is currently under investigation for large-scale graft.

One estimate put the cost to the taxpayer of the coalition agreements – i.e. the money available to the parties in the coalition for bribery, fraud and self-enrichment – at over one billion shekels (about $800 million.) Others put it even higher.

Not all the money is reserved for graft, of course. A significant chunk is earmarked for Jewish settlement in the West Bank, an activity that is illegal under international law. Any enterprise that encourages such illegality must itself be illegal, surely?

Were it not for the support of the United States and the EU, along with the diligent lobbying of world Jewry, the new government would have no more validity than the bandit governments of Africa, which have bled their countries dry for decades while leaving their people impoverished and living in squalor.

In a normal Western country, such a government would not be able to take its oath. But Israel is not a normal country and its checks and balances, such as they were, are barely functional today, following the depredations of the Netanyahu years. The concerted campaign by Netanyahu’s Likud against anything smacking of human rights has left civil society in tatters.

The Supreme Court, long a prime target of right-wing bullies, is cowed and servile, while the prosecutor’s office is in disarray following the arrest last week of a powerful former DA on fraud charges.

And the situation is even worse when it comes to the police. The top ranks of Israeli law enforcement have been decimated over the past 18 months, as assistant commissioner after assistant commissioner (in Israel they have the rank of major-general) has resigned or been fired for sexual harassment.

A popular joke tells of a guy entering a police station to confess to the rape of four women. “We don’t have any openings right now,” says the cop on duty. “But put your name on the list and we’ll get back to you.”

It would be wrong to conclude from the above that Israel is not getting the government it wants and deserves. If anything, the new coalition is the most representative that Israel has ever had.

With the exception of the Kulanu party, which is new – though its founder and head is a former Likud minister – all the parties comprising the new government are well-known, as are their proclivities for squandering public money, looking out only for themselves and their constituents or promoting activities, such as settlement, that are patently illegal.

The people knew that when they voted for them, so it’s only fair to assume that they were not particularly concerned about the track-records of those they put in power.

This is what has been going on here recently: As mentioned previously, virtually the entire leadership of a major political party is under investigation for corruption; top legal people and businessmen are under arrest for graft in the so-called Fisher Affair (named after prominent lawyer Ronel Fisher); a new sexual scandal in the police or army makes the headlines on a weekly basis or less; a prominent rabbi has been sentenced to jail for bribing the head of a police unit regarded as Israel’s FBI; a former president is in jail for rape and a former prime minister will soon be joining him after being found guilty of corruption.

The reality is that Israel has indulged in state-sanctioned criminality – the occupation of the Palestinians and the theft of their land – for decades and the poison has tricked downwards into every corner of the population. What we’re seeing now is the toxic chickens coming home to roost.

Not only that. The state’s flouting of international law, its blanket denial of any wrongdoing with regard to the Palestinians – in the face of all the evidence to the contrary – and its contempt for international opinion have engendered a population-wide disdain for legalities of every sort. Israelis don’t believe they need to answer to anyone.

What’s refreshing about the new government is that it has no fig leaves. It can’t be mistaken for anything but what it is: a mafia-like gang dedicated to stealing Palestinian land, pocketing public money and further enriching the rich by impoverishing the poor.

In that sense it’s the most transparent and the most representative government Israel has ever had. When the shit hits the fan next time – and it will – none of us will be able to say that we didn’t know or we weren’t part of it. Every Israeli and every Jew who supports Israel is culpable.